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The Worst General?

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by TheRedBaron, Jul 17, 2002.

  1. lost knight

    lost knight Member

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    Rommel was not the worst, agreed, but clearly not the best nor all that he's commonly credited as. My Kasserine comment refers to the poor follow up Thala and Sbiba rather than the potential breakthrough to the ammo dumps at Tebessaor a drive to Bone. Instead, after the badly disrupted US/UK forces stopped him, he turned to attack Montgomery at Medenine in a perfect disaster. He was recalled after this.

    Montgomery trying to lecture Patton (at the time of the Kasserine debacle he was not yet in a foward command--I think he was commanding Oran?) has to have been one of Montgomery's silliest ideas. Just think of the personalities involved. I'm not really a huge fan of either of them.
     
  2. Volga Boatman

    Volga Boatman Dishonorably Discharged

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    This is what Max Hastings has to say concerning Stauffenburg and the Bomb Plot of July 20....(From "All Hell Let Loose", Page 551)

    "Posterity is more puzzled by the failure of other Germans to accept the logic of their predicament, to depose the Nazis and save hundreds of thousands of lives by abandoning the struggle. Such an initiative could only credibly have come from the generals. The July 20 1944 Bomb Plot, the only concerted military attempt to decapitate the Nazi regime, was conducted with stunning incompetance and lack of conviction, and engaged a relatively small number of officers. A legend of anti-Nazi resistance was created, and is today sustained, chiefly to bolster the revival of post-war German self-esteem. Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg would almost certainly have been successful in killing Hitler had he remained in the Fuhrer's headquarters to detonate the bomb instead of hastening back to Berlin. Many other officers had opportunities to achieve the same end, at the sacrifice of their own lives.

    As it was, a perverted sense of duty caused most of the Wehrmacht's leadership to follow the Nazi regime to the end, to their perpetual dishonour. Among themselves, Germany's generals often mocked the character and conduct of the gangsters and grotesques by whom their country was led; yet their own slavishness towards Hitler seldom flagged. At a meeting on 27 January, 1944, when he called on every officer to display loyal and fanatical support for National Socialism, Manstein called out, "And so it will be, my Fuhrer!". He later claimed that his interjection was intended ironically, but few believed him. He and his kind placed their reputations as members of the soldierly caste, committed to fulfil to the last their military responsibilities and oath to Hitler, ahead of the interests of the society they professed to serve. They made an explicit or implicit choice to fight and die as servants of the Third Reich, rather than as protectors of the nation, whose interests could only credibly be served by securing peace on any terms, or indeed none. Waffen SS panzer officer, Hubert Meyer wrote in outrage about the July 20 plot: "It was incomprehensible that soldiers would attempt a coup against the supreme military leadership while they themselves were involved in bitter defensive fighting against an enemy who demanded "unconditional surrender", not willing to negotiate a ceasefire or even peace!". Many Wehrmacht officers, even those hostile to the Nazis, shared his sentiments.....(end of ectract)

    VB writes...There is a simple explanation for this state of affairs. German officers at this level were receiving extensive bribes over and above their salaries. Added to this, some had the pick of land, houses and other loot from conquered territories. There exists a thick file in German archives of correspondance from a certain Gen Heinz Guderian, complaining to the relevant authourities that the estate he was 'granted' was "not palatial enough", and clearly not suitable for a man of his stature and position. Guderian, after being sacked in Russia as commander of a panzergruppe, used the time to tour newly won German territory, picking out choice potential properties that the state could bequeath to him. In this time before he became Inspector General of the Kraftfahrtruppen, Guderian motored from point to point, sending letters to the ministry as he went.
    It is this and other bribes that perfectly explain German General's reluctance to let go of the Nazi regime, long after the point of no return had been reached. So, it was bribes at the top for the leaders, and bullets for the poor suckers that ran away at the bottom of the heap.

    No wonder the leadership of the regime soldiered on long after it was obvious that there was no point to it all....(Source for Guderian....Gerhardt Weinburg)

    Hastings has a softer explanation for this state of affairs...(Page 553, "All Hell Let Loose")

    "Germany's military leaders earned the contempt of posterity for indulging the mass murderers who led their country, while claiming to absolve themselves of complicity in the Nazi's crimes. To contemplate revolt in the last phase of a struggle for national survival demanded moral courage such as few German officers had. They knew the carnage they had wreaked in Russia; they could expect no mercy from Stalin's people, and fear of impending Soviet vengeance became the dominant motivation for millions of German soldiers. It provided perverse and spurious justification for the General's refusal toto turn on Hitler. Their reasoning was vacuous, because sustained resistance merely delayed the inevitable. Yet even the more intelligent clung to fantastic hopes that the Western Allies would deliver them from the Russians. Career officer Cpt. Rolf-Helmut Schroder believed that once the Americans had defeated Germany, they would confront the Soviet Union; "We thought it impossible for Americans to accept that the Russians should over-run Germany."

    VB again...
    It all depends on whom you believe in this case. I think the file on Guderian unearthed by Weinburg tells more about German officer Corp motivations than any sentiments expressed about American increduality over the impending Soviet whirlwind....

    What do our Rogues feel was the case here?

    I believe this is more than enough proof to include Stauffenberg on a list of "Worst Generals"...
     
  3. Volga Boatman

    Volga Boatman Dishonorably Discharged

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    Great post Scipio....love the line about a "...gum chewing ex-cavalry officer, sitting bored at the back of the class."

    I learn something every time I come on line, and I had no idea that Monty had the audacity to lecture U.S generals in such a manner. Nothing mentioned of the incident in Carlo d'Este's biography of Patton...it should have been included. Utterly hilarious for all students of WW2. Was Patton "sent" as you suggest? It is far more likely he went along of his own conviction. Patton, despite his public persona, was the one of the most widely read and intelligent generals the U.S. Army ever produced. In 1928, he came up with a doctrine for Armor usage that was years ahead of anything published by Guderian or Liddel Hart. And Eisenhower collaborated on it. The papers and writing were filed away and forgotten. But Ike remembered, and this explains to a large degree why he had so much time and patience for "Georgie". He knew darned well what a brilliant mind the man had.

    I do feel your last line about tanks and beaches is missing the point. What point was ther to parking expensive armor in a static position? Rommel could not be allowed to waste the scarce panzers in this fashion! It boggles the mind that any General would sacrifice mobility as suggested, for mobility is ALL. Without it, you are lost no matter what you do.

    What was the source, by the way? Please list sources.

    Great post. I'd like, also to thank our members in advance for contributing to an absorbing thread such as this one.
     
  4. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Well I agree but it is hindsight and I don't think that he was going to park them quite on the Beaches - had to be beyond Naval gunfire range. Rommel's nightmare was that he would not he able to move his Panzers much once the Allied Airforce attacked.

    I think his experience in North Africa rather scared him too much. The Bocage was not the open desert of North Africa and tanks could be hidden and moved at night - not so in Libya.

    I believe Guderian who criticised him wanted the Panzers parked near Paris, which seems pretty disastrous too in view of the Allied destruction of the Transport Infrastructure once the bombers struck.


    Give me a little time and I will dig up the reference to Patton.
     
  5. scipio

    scipio Member

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    [​IMG]

    Hi Volga Boatman

    Hope this is Ok. I took a little bit of poetic licence but the guts is the same I believe.
     
  6. lost knight

    lost knight Member

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    Volga Boatman
    In defense of Stauffenberg-
    He opposed Hilter on moral grounds, as well as military setbacks. The plot was sloppy but might have worked with luck.
    Generals were plotting or talking plots from The Rhineland through Munich on the basis of saving Germany from a lost war.
    Once Hitler had achieved success in these early stages they dropped all opposition to him. If they ever could have stopped him
    to save Germany from a lost war---that's not a question of right vs wrong. Give Stauffenberg a pass; he was rather low ranking,
    led some pretty wild people, at least he tried, and at least in part , for the right reason.
     
  7. lost knight

    lost knight Member

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    I'm a little suprised nobody has nominated Doulas MacArthur. He lost Bataan (after being hit with a total suprise air attack after Pearl Harbor). Insisted on fighting through New Guinea and the Philippines which was perhaps not necessary. The true course to victory was the island hopping that was developed by Nimitz. All the while a fierce self-promoter that made Mark Clark look modest by comparison.

    I,m not hard and fast on this; just curious what others might think.:2cents:
     
  8. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    He he. This is quite a taboo ;). There have been several threads about Mac vs Monty on our sister forum WW2talk and it almost ended in another Revolutionnary war.
    Feel free to criticise Mac Arthur, but be ready to face the wrath of some of our American friends :D
     
  9. gunbunnyb/3/75FA

    gunbunnyb/3/75FA Member

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    as a yank i will take up the banner that says macarthur was a killing general who did not care how many men he killed. the phillippines were hit a full six days after pearl harbor.that means no major suprise there.
     
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  10. leccy1

    leccy1 Member

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    Was the counter attack involving Rommel and Von Arnim (who disliked each other and had both been told they would take over command of all Axis Forces in Africa after the Battle by Kesselring) Rommels idea? Several books I have read claim it was kesselrings idea and took some time to convince Rommel about as he was a fairly broken man. Rommel was promised command of all Axis troops in Africa (secretly Kesselring had also told Von Arnim that command would be his after letting Rommel have a last bit of glory before he was sent home on medical grounds).


    Kesselring said Rommel was dispirited before he was convinced to participate in the Battle, he came alive again during the planning and initial stages then when suffering a set back (I believe the failure of the 10th Armoured Div) went back into a funk.


    I dont know whether Rommel asked for all troops to be pulled out of Africa but I often wonder what could have happened if all those troops and supplies that were found for Tunisia had been available to Rommel for El Alamein.


    How do you figure that and where did he experience it. Wherever he served there were other Generals, Between him leaving Africa and the Normandy Invasion there seemed to be a few battles and campaigns involving Allied Air Power that he was not involved in.

    The endless debate on holding them close to the beaches and hoping they are the right beaches and they survive the initial air and sea bombardment, or holding them further back to protect them, where they can cover more of the coast, then using them to mass at the point of invasion to throw the invaders back after they have blunted themselves on the coastal defences.
    By the way where did Rommel think the Invasion would come, where did Hitler assume it would land and if Rommel had had his way of forward positioning where would Hitler have allowed them to be positioned, Pas De Calais, Normandy, S France.

    Pretty pointless either way as the Germans Coastal defences were not strong enough, their mobile units could not operate effectively without air support in an assault with allied air superiority. Never mind Hitlers refusal to allow local commanders to be able to call the Mobile Divisions into action without his express permission (which took too long to get).

    Oh and since most of this discussion is about Tunisia it seems
    US General Fredendall, a stunning example of how to do things wrong, then crack up and blame everyone else, then Eisenhower for transferring him back to the states to train troops (needed someone who could improve the tactics and training of the US troops not someone who fell apart and could not even follow basic tactics).
     
  11. scipio

    scipio Member

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    The problem in sorting out who thought what or whose idea was what is always difficult when one of the key players can't defend himself - in this case Rommel since he was dead.

    Certainly he was ill at this time and this could have had an effect on how he appeared. Whether he needed prompting or not, the simple fact is that he pulled off the Kasserine attack magnificently and unknown to him sowed the seed of Anglo\American distrust which was to bedevil the Sicily campaign (and others).


    It was pretty clear that North Africa was lost unless something dramatic was achieved. The attack by 10 Panzer was a desperate gamble which failed but the British did not have it all their own way at Mareth and it took a flanking move via a track
    known only to the locals to achieve victory.


    I am sure I am on very firm ground in asserting that Rommel made strong overtures to Hitler to evacuate North Africa.

    Ok Rommel was not the only German General to face the Allied Airforce - Kesselring et al were obviously attacked from the air in Sicily. However, Tedder and Cunningham were now in control and made interdiction of German re-supply their aim, precious little direct support for armies on the ground. Rommel had in the later stages of the North Africa campaign had to face Broadhurst and the Cab Rank close support which was a far more effective use of air power. Cab Rank close support was employed in Normandy, with excellent results.

    But in any case, Kesselring was not involved in the decisions in North West Europe and none of the German Generals in this Theatre had experienced the full weight of Allied Air supremacy. So Rommel was the only one who had.

    Rommel does get critised by Guderian (Chief of Staff) in this book Panzer General. I was seeking to explain why Rommel was such a strong proponent of forward defence.

    I believe that both Germans and Allied assumed that the DDay landings would result in the capture of the Beaches. However, the critical time, according to Montgomery's planning would be 24 hours later when on Monty's own calculation the Germans would potentially have a slight advantage in Divisions. The Germans then had only a couple of days to build up their forces in the right area, after that the Allies would be too strong. So in my opinion, Rommel's ideas were better than Guderian's in this respect and from what I can gather Rommel wanted more Forces South of the Seine but Hitler decreed otherwise.
     
  12. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    OTOH,Model was not afraid to contradict Hitler publicly,asking him:who is the commander of the 9th Army :you, or me ?
    And,Model got his baton,because he restaured the situation on the East Front in 1944.
     
  13. lost knight

    lost knight Member

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    Re: Montgomery lecturing Patton

    Must be very true and widely known to the generals. During the attack on Tunis, the 8th Army stalled in the hill country near Enfidaville. Anderson's 1st Army and Bradley's 2 Corps had been the target of his sharp criticism for their efforts in the hill fighting in western Tunisia. Bradley jokingly told his staff "Let's radio Monty and see if he wants us to send him a few American advisors to show his desert fighters how to get through those hills."

    I'm almost sorry no one took up the radio---curious I guess.
     
  14. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    The first time General Bradley thought of "Cobra" seems to be around 10th July. So he never could have meant that the US were to attack from behind and the British were meant to stop the German forces meanwhile. Actually the "big" attack by Patton became evident as the "Cobra" was a success. As well this decision was thus fatal, as the Brittany attack was very important for the logistics of Allied army. It was meant that there would be a semi-artificial harbour at Quiberon Bay, in Brittany. It would have been important to get Brest first as there were German naval artillery that could destroy the parts of the pier elements on their way to Quiberon.

    The idea was that the Normandy railroad would be destroyed but Colonel Harold Mack had noticed, that the best railroads in France ran along the coast of the Bay of Biscay. This is where the deep water vessels would land and 7,000 tons a day would come in. It was called operation "Chastity" and were stamped "Top Secret Bigot"

    .Somehow though as "Cobra" was a success, Patton instaed turned east and only the 8th was sent to Brittany.later on the Allied could not meet the need for supply and were forced to stop. So Patton " shot himself in the leg" as he was later on forced to stopand received no oil...

    Jonathan Gawne " 1944 Americans in Brittany"

    ------------------

    "The Chastity mission was assigned to Gen Omar N. Bradley's 12th Army Group. For various reasons, General Bradley and his subordinate, General Patton, relegated the logistics plan to a low priority:

    While General Bradley planned classical campaigns, slow and methodical, General Patton displayed a quality of original thinking, improvising, hitting hard and fast, and anticipating in advance the enemy moves. General Patton later wrongly claimed, however, that the indications were that it was a deliberate withholding of gas from his army by higher authorities. He was wrong in this respect. There just wasn't enough to go around.
    Unfortunately for all concerned, his genius was curtailed and his victorious advance stopped because of the initial failure to carry out the Chastity plan, needed to keep him supplied. By September 1st, his army was short of everything-gas, rations, blankets, winter clothing.".

    [​IMG]

    . .
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2021
  15. Riter

    Riter Active Member

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    In all fairness to phat boi Goering, he did not promise Hitler that the Luftwaffe could meet the Sixth Army's supply demands. It was another Luftwaffe general. But he certainly messed up at thinking the Luftwaffe could win the victory at Dunkirk.
     
  16. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    What rot.

    Montgomery did organise and run a study week on the lessons learned from El Alamein during the week 14-18 Feb(?) 1943. Montgomery's army had a hard fought series of battles against Rommel since August 1942 and had some thought provoking stories to tell and lessons to pass on.

    Sure, Montgomery talked about his lessons in command in battle with his preaching egotism. Other speakers and presentations included Bernard Freyburg on using an motorised infantry division in the advance and attack. His NZ Division reinforced with a light armoured brigade had been operating as a british version of the 90th Light in the advance from Alamein. Douglas Wimberley on night attacks on German rear guards and a demonstration by the 8th Armoured Brigade of tank tactics. Those who attended said it was like a condensed staff college course.

    Isn't it good practice to share lessons learned the hard way with others? That is British did during the world wars and the American army did throughout WW2. Are you seriously claiming that there was nothing to learn from their experience?

    According to Hamilton, Patton may have disparaged Montgomery publicly, but his diary entry was that Montgomery was the most professional person he had encountered in WW2.

    The lesson Rommel taught the Americans was the negative lesson that their tactics were inadequate. Montgomery might have been able to show them how the British beat Rommel's attacks as they did at Alem Halfa and would go on to do at Medennine. Beat off a German armoured force was a relatively new idea for Feb 1943 and one the US Corps and First Army might have done well to study before Kasserine pass .

    Montgomery was not a nice man and made himself unpopular. But it is all too easy to sneer when we should perhaps ask a few more questions.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2021
  17. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    yes, and he really messed up in Korea also
     
  18. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    Mac did screw up there, and even worse in Korea --I'm American
     
  19. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I was going to nominate Mark Clark and Macarthur. A slight edge goes to Macarthur. Both were egotistical and wasteful of the soldiers under their commands. They had a single-mindedness about their approach to their ends. They seemed unable to adapt to changing circumstances.
    My two cents. (Yes, I'm an American)
     
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